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Science

In 2020, no monarch butterflies were seen along the Central Coast. This year, nearly 4,000 returned.

Monarch butterflies were declared endangered only a few months ago.

monarchs back in CA

Monarchs during mating season.

In 2020, the number of monarch butterflies counted at the Pacific Grove Natural History Museum’s Monarch Sanctuary in Monterey, California, was zero. In 2021, only one lone butterfly was seen.

Now, in 2022, the museum has announced that a seemingly miraculous 3,823 butterflies were counted during their seasonal migration. And across the entire West Coast, more than 247,000 monarchs have been spotted, a number not seen since 2016.

The incredible comeback has experts baffled and conservationists in awe. And while the reason behind it remains somewhat of a mystery, it’s a testament to the huge positive impact to be had when nature’s timing is combined with collective human effort.

Back in late July 2022, the monarch butterfly was declared endangered, with scientists estimating a drop in population somewhere between 20% and 90% over the last several decades.

Normally, as temperatures cool during winter, thousands—and before 1990, millions—of amber-colored wings can be seen fluttering across the sky as the insects travel thousands of miles across North America to California and Mexico. Along the way, they’ll lay their eggs in milkweed plants, which is the only thing that monarch caterpillars will eat (yes, even babies of the animal kingdom are picky eaters). The relationship between milkweeds and monarchs is so integral that another name for a monarch is the “milkweed butterfly.”

However, milkweed has been rapidly disappearing since the 1990s, namely due to the use of herbicides. This, coupled with climate change leading to overwintering—meaning that the butterflies delay reproduction to survive winter—results in the abysmal amount of sightings in 2020. Yet still, this year saw a 35% increase.

The reason behind such a big population boom almost seems like divine intervention. So many things had to line up that, in an interview with PBS, Louie Yang, insect ecologist at University of California, Davis, attributed the surge to a “series of fortunate events.” One of those events was that temperatures and rainfall levels were at just the rights levels at the right time, leading to more milkweed blooms just as surviving monarchs reemerged from overwintering.

Some experts even speculate that the miracle might have been born out of catastrophe. Pacific Grove park docent and retired entomologist Paul Meredith suggested to PBS that 2019’s wildfires prepared the ground for an “extraordinary wildflower season,” thus giving a boost to migrating adult monarchs this season.

A monarch butterfly.

Photo by Joshua J. Cotten on Unsplash

While the reason behind the recent butterfly increase has yet to be thoroughly researched, there are definitive ways to help. As KSBW reports, this includes planting native milkweeds about 5-10 miles from an overwintering site, planting native nectar plants (which adult monarchs eat) and refraining from pesticide use. In addition, it’s crucial to support legislation that protects habitats for monarch butterflies and other pollinators.

Monarchs aren’t the only butterflies to make a resurgence thanks to conservation efforts. In the U.K., 750 large blue butterflies were discovered in August 2020 after being declared extinct in Britain in 1979. Again, it took recovering a natural habitat and food source—these British butterflies appropriately required thyme and marjoram, rather than milkweed. They also prefer tea to coffee, so I’m told.

This bit of good news is certainly worth sharing, and hopefully with awareness we can all help these gorgeous creatures spread their wings.

Pop Culture

Two brothers Irish stepdancing to Beyoncé's country hit 'Texas Hold 'Em' is pure delight

The Gardiner Brothers and Queen Bey proving that music can unite us all.

Gardiner Brothers/TikTok (with permission)

The Gardiner Brothers stepping in time to Beyoncé's "Texas Hold 'Em."

In early February 2024, Beyoncé rocked the music world by releasing a surprise new album of country tunes. The album, Renaissance: Act II, includes a song called "Texas Hold 'Em," which shot up the country charts—with a few bumps along the way—and landed Queen Bey at the No.1 spot.

As the first Black female artist to have a song hit No. 1 on Billboard's country music charts, Beyoncé once again proved her popularity, versatility and ability to break barriers without missing a beat. In one fell swoop, she got people who had zero interest in country music to give it a second look, forced country music fans to broaden their own ideas about what country music looks like and prompted conversations about bending and blending musical genres and styles.

And she inspired the Gardiner Brothers to add yet another element to the mix—Irish stepdance.

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Science

Should we wear shoes in the house? Experts weigh in and turns out we should stop immediately.

It's a common practice in the west that may be grosser than we realize.

Experts seem to agree that shoes shouldn't be worn inside

Growing up nearly everyone knew of one house that didn't allow people to wear shoes inside. It didn't matter if you accidentally wore your socks with the hole in them, there were no exceptions–shoes off. For many folks it was just seen as a quirk for that particular family and there wasn't much thought given into why they were adamant about enforcing the rule.

But it turns out that wearing shoes inside is more of a western culture thing than a global one, which makes Americans a minority in keeping outside shoes on while inside the house. It would seem that other countries may have had a bit more of an understanding on why it's a bad idea to wear shoes inside.

Common sense tells us that wearing shoes inside means you'll be sweeping and mopping more often than you'd like. Of course you track in dirt but there are apparently hundreds of bacteria and fungi that you're tracking in that can cause your family to get sick.

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It's rare enough to capture one antler being shed

For those not well versed in moose facts, the shedding of antlers is normally a fairly lengthy process. It happens only once a year after mating season and usually consists of a moose losing one antler at a time.

It’s incredibly rare for a bull moose to lose both at the same time—and even more rare that someone would actually catch it on film.

That’s why shed hunter (yes, that’s a real term) and woodsman Derek Burgoyne calls his footage of the phenomenon a “one-in-a-million” shot.

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Photos by Daniela on Unsplash (left) and Rens D on Unsplash (right)

Peeling garlic is notoriously challenging.

If you ever cook with fresh garlic, you know what a challenge it can be to remove the cloves from the skin cleanly, especially if you're starting with a full head.

There are various methods people use to peel garlic, with varying levels of success. Doing it by hand works, but will leave you with garlic-smelling fingertips for the better part of a day. Whacking the head on the counter helps separate the cloves from each other, but doesn't help much with removing the skin.

Some people swear by vigorously shaking the skinned cloves around in a covered bowl or jarred lid, which can be surprisingly effective. Some smash the clove with the flat side of a knife to loosen it and then pull it off. Others utilize a rubber roller to de-skin the cloves.

But none of these methods come close to the satisfaction of watching someone perfectly peeling an entire head of garlic with a pair of tongs.

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Modern Families

‘Hard pill to swallow’: Mom shares why some adult children don’t talk to their parents

"How your kids treat you when they are no longer in need of food and shelter, is a direct reflection of how you made them feel when they needed you to survive."

Parent and child deal with the pain of estrangement.

Even though humans are biologically hard-wired to form strong attachments to our parents, in many cases, these relationships become estranged as the children age. A recent poll found that nearly 1 in 4 adults are estranged from their families.

Six percent are estranged from their mothers and 26% have no contact with their fathers. It’s believed that these days, more children are comfortable distancing themselves from their parents because it’s good for their mental health.

“I think it relates to this new desire to have healthy relationships,” Rin Reczek, a sociology professor at the Ohio State University, said, according to The Hill. “There might be some cultural shifts around people being allowed to choose who is in your family. And that can include not choosing to have the person who raised you be in your family.”

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Pop Culture

Loretta Lynn's granddaughter wows 'American Idol' judges with raw original song

Emmy Russell's original song "Skinny," featuring lyrics about body image and eating disorders, nearly brought everyone to tears.

America Idol/Youtube, Promotional image of Loretta Lynn/Wikipedia

Emmy Russell (left) and her grandmother Loretta Lynn (right)

Emmy Russell, granddaughter of country music icon Loretta Lynn, proved that she was an artist in her own right during a recent episode of “American Idol.”

The 24-year-old singer-songwriter from Nashville auditioned in front of judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan during the show's Feb. 25 episode, during which she opened up about wanting to not live in her grandmother’s shadow.

"She's one of the biggest country music singers of all time, but to me she's just Grandma," she said, adding "I think I am a little timid, and I think it is because I want to own my voice. That's why I want to challenge myself and come out here."

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